BALTIMORE -- It was great being back at Camden Yards on Opening Day. I took a pregame tour of the outfield renovations and was really impressed. I even got to see the mastermind behind the project, Janet Marie Smith. She’s the architect and urban planner who played a big role in the original design of this landmark ballpark before helping renovate Fenway Park for the Red Sox.
She’s back with the Orioles now, which is great for Baltimore. As timeless as Camden Yards feels, it needed these subtle upgrades. The new bar overlooking center field is tremendous. The bar itself, with its black and orange trimmings, has a modern feel, and it leads out onto a deck, where fans have a cool view of the retro-ballpark.
The Orioles also lowered the right field wall by four feet, giving fans a better view over that railing, too. On Opening Day, throngs of people congregated along those outfield railings, and the concession stands along Eutaw Street, right in front of that iconic warehouse, were buzzing.
Anyway, I first saw Camden Yards on a baseball trip with my dad, uncle and cousin in 1993. (We scalped tickets and handed over a small fortune to some guy who knew we were easy marks. Two dads and their sons from “Min-ne-soh-ta don’t-cha-know?”) I covered Opening Day here for the Baltimore Sun in 2002 -- Tony Bautista had four RBI in his first game as Cal Ripken’s replacement at third base, I kid you not -- so it was pretty cool to be here for the 20th anniversary, too.
* Scott Baker is seeing Dr. David Altcheck next week for a second opinion on his right elbow. I just posted the update here.
* I didn’t get to it my coverage, but Brian Duensing got two big strikeouts in the eighth inning, keeping the score at 4-0 after Jeff Gray had allowed two runners to reach with one out.
* Also, interesting to see how Manager Ron Gardenhire used his bench. He used lefty Sean Burroughs to pinch hit for Alexi Casilla against hard-throwing righty Matt Lindstrom in the eighth, then inserted Trevor Plouffe -- not Luke Hughes -- on defense at second base.
Plouffe got the game’s final at-bat against Orioles closer Jim Johnson and grounded out, stranding runners at the corners. I looked it up, and Plouffe had never faced Johnson previously. Hughes is 0-for-1 lifetime against Johnson, with a weak ground out to third base -- according to Baseball-Reference -- that ended a 6-1 loss at Target Field on Aug. 24.
Hughes led the Twins in home runs (six) and RBI (20) this spring, but Plouffe is expected to have a bigger role this year.
* That’s it for tonight. Check back here tomorrow afternoon for the starting lineups, as Francisco Liriano takes the mound for the Twins opposite Orioles righthander Tommy Hunter. First pitch: 6:05 p.m. (Central).